Using Metaphor-osis in the Digital Literacy Classroom

The complexity of helping non-digitally-connected citizens to explore the online world requires, on some level, a centuries old method of teaching to create a metamorphosis in the life of the student.

The Internet Basics classes being delivered across the nation are forced to confront a large hurdle directly out of the gate: The new concept of a ‘Browser’.  Even the totally uninitiated can grasp the idea of a computer and that it does things much, much faster than a human, but the conception of a browser seems puzzling and unnecessary to the person being introduced to computer technology.  The first challenge for the Digital Literacy instructor is to breakdown the notion of equality between computer-and-internet, and hardware-and-software.

Human history is saturated with examples of metaphor use in teaching.  Some scholars argue that all learning is achieved through some level of a metaphorical lens.  A powerful and effective use of metaphor that has worked in my Internet Basics classes has been the use of an automobile’s console to that of a browser. 

The metaphor begins with comparison of the known (a multi-lane highway that can take you anywhere), to the unknown (the Internet or Information Super Highway).  We then move to likening a car to a computer and explaining that sitting in your car is like sitting in front of computer.  You will not be able to travel anywhere without engaging the instruments on your car’s console, or in the virtual world: the computer’s browser.  The key teaching moment is when we explain that both automobile consoles and browsers have controls in different locations, yet they both have the same basic functionality. 

The metaphor is expanded upon throughout the lesson with parallels such as the reverse gear in a car to the back-arrow in a browser.  Please see the class handout provided by clicking here.

It is quite intriguing to realize that a method of teaching that was used in biblical times is still effective teaching technology in the 21st century.

 
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Don Gregory

As a Technology Instructor for Providence Public Library, Don is immersed daily in the world of computers and other forms of emerging technology. In his blog, he will explore and share the “goings on” in the high speed digital world of the 21st century.


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